Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Written by G.O. Parsons
Directed by Kevin Lewis
There was literally no reason for Willy’s Wonderland to be good, and it certainly lived up to that expectation. Somehow, they got Nicolas Cage into this picture, playing himself at ultimate meme form in a premise that is clearly ripping off the popular video game series Five Night’s at Freddy’s. The picture clearly has low effort put into its production aside from maybe the monstrous constructs Cage faces off with. But it is devoid of even charming style or tone that its apparent tryhard effort to be a “so bad it’s good” movie falls short.
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Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021)
Written by Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo
Directed by Josh Greenbaum
From the first scene of Barb and Star, you can tell this isn’t going to be a gross-out comedy. Instead, it hints at the best sort of absurd comedies like The Jerk or Wayne’s World. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be, it made me laugh, and that’s what I wanted. Not every joke hits the same, but the ones that work are hilarious. It had been a long while since I’d watched a mainstream comedy that I actually found funny. I was right that the team behind Bridesmaids would deliver.
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After Hours (1985)
Written by Joseph Minion
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Following Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese made The King of Comedy, a thematic companion piece to Taxi Driver. The audience’s expectations didn’t match what the director had in mind and so it did not perform well at the box office while being well received by critics. Roger Ebert tussled with the film and declared it “one of the creepiest […] and best of the year.” The 1980s would prove to be an odd decade for Scorsese and he seemed to embrace that strangeness in After Hours. This was a dark comedy based on a stage monologue and Scorsese would come to explain that the film reflected his personal frustrations dealing with studios while trying to get The Passion of the Christ produced.
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Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Written by Robert Getchell
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Interestingly, the popular perception of Martin Scorsese is as a director of macho gangster pictures. Yes, he has made a considerable number of them, but after Mean Streets, it wouldn’t return that world until 1990’s Goodfellas. Instead, he showcased a genuine love of the cinema. In the documentary A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, it becomes inarguable that the director is most interested in continuing conversation begun in films he watched throughout his life. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore opens with a young girl walking along a country set in a soundstage, which immediately evokes images of Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz. Yet, Scorsese immediately subverts our expectations by having young Alice give an expletive-laden outburst.
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Search Party Season 4 (HBO Max)
Written by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Christina Lee, Emily Heller, Jordan Firstman, Matt Kriete & Andrew Pierce Fleming, and Starlee Kine
Directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, John Lee, and Alia Shawkat
Every season I ask myself, “Where could this show go next.” When I step back and look at the four seasons of Search Party that have been made, it is quite hilarious and stunning how its creators can morph and shift the narrative into something surprising. Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers continue to explore, ruminate, skewer, and satirize Millennials. It’s clear they are a part of a particular gentrifying class in New York City, but they are honest about their peers’ neuroses and incredibly harmful psyches. These characters exist in a world where it’s stunningly easy to compromise your values; you’re encouraged to do so. And anytime someone tries to escape, they are inevitably roped right back in.
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Welcome to our inaugural Patron’s Pick. This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris, my brother. Hook was a movie we watched a lot when we were kids. Here’s what Matt had to say about it:
One of my favorite moments:
Captain Hook: You bet against me bringing Pan back here, didn’t ya?
Captain Hook: Aw, tell your captain the truth.
[pirate starts to cry] Aww, say it. Say it.
Pirate: I did.
Captain Hook: Yes, you made a boo-boo.
Pirate: [nods] I did. I did!
Captain Hook: The Boo Box.
Pirate: Not that! Not the Boo Box! NOO!!
[he is then locked into a chest filled with scorpions.]
(Editor’s note: That pirate locked in the Boo Box was actually played by Glenn Close of all people!)
Written by Nick Castle, Carrie Fisher, Jim V. Hart & Malia Scotch Marmo
Directed by Steven Spielberg
I found that it’s pretty impossible to watch Hook without thinking about the passing of Robin Williams. In December, this film will turn 30 years old. In August, Williams will have been gone for seven years. I can’t say Williams was ever my favorite actor, but I certainly love some of his films with a sense of nostalgia. Pictures like Hook and Jumanji were significant movies for me growing up. I know we recorded Hook off an airing on ABC and rewatched that VHS tape so many times. I think this viewing was tinged less by Steven Spielberg’s trademark maudlin sensibilities and more how the film’s themes sting a little harder when you think about the tragedy of Williams’s death and the circumstances surrounding it.
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Written by Ray Lawrence & Peter Carey
Directed by Ray Lawrence
In twenty-one years, Australian filmmaker Ray Lawrence made three movies with a sixteen-year gap between his first two. His first film, Bliss, caused hundreds to walk out of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and won the 1985 Australian Academy Award. Lawrence was born in London in 1948 and moved to Australia when he was 11. After he graduated from high school, Lawrence attended and subsequently dropped out of university. This lead to his work in advertising in Sydney and then a move back to London producing commercials. When he finally returned to Australia, Lawrence started his own production company that became one of the top producers of commercials in the continent. It was during his time in advertising that Lawrence met author Peter Carey and they became quick friends. This led to a screenwriting partnership that led to two full-length screenplays. Eventually, they decided to adapt Carey’s award-winning novel Bliss for the big screen.
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The Climb (2019)
Written by Michael Angelo Covino & Kyle Marvin
Directed by Michael Angelo Covino
Two men toil up a road in rural France, barely enjoying the countryside, one more slightly out of breath than the other. A secret is revealed, and suddenly the friendship crumbles. This is one of many deaths and rebirths we will see of these two guys as they rekindle their bond, only for one of them to continually stomp it out through selfishness. The Climb is a remarkable indie comedy that manages to be quirky without falling over into the cliches around this genre. The two lead actors are genuinely hilarious, and the film is masterfully shot. Many Steadicam and long takes with hidden cuts make the story feel a little more sweeping than you would expect.
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Space Station 76 (2014)
Written by Jack Plotnick, Jennifer Elise Cox, Sam Pancake, Kali Rocha, and Mike Stoyanov
Directed by Jack Plotnick
Space Station 76 is as much about its aesthetic as it is any plot or character arcs. Now, that can be an incredibly frustrating thing if you aren’t into the aesthetic. I completely understand if someone was turned off by this film because they just don’t care for the look and tone. I thought many parts of the movie were a little too self-indulgent and leaned into some weak improv. Overall, I think it is an interesting little oddity, clearly made by people who have a vision of what they wanted to do, and they did it.
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Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
Written by Julie Brown, Charlie Coffey, and Terrence E. McNally
Directed by Terrence E. McNally
When I was a kid, this film, in its edited for television version, seemed to play often on one of the local channels, which pretty much bought and played anything they could find to fill airtime. My memories are incredibly spotty, and I remember images of the furry aliens and their transformation into resembling people. I haven’t revisited it since those years, now; as an adult, I figured it could be a part of this series, and I was interested to see what I would get from it now. With 1980s nostalgia being at its peak in the last few years, you would think a movie like this would get more attention, but it still remains a very obscure picture, or at least not brought up in discussion in the internet corners I frequent.
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